2023 BMW X7 First Drive Review: The King Of Luxury SUVs

First Drive / 9 Comments

BMW's "LCI" X7 is more than just a refresh. It's a luxury SUV king.

This week, BMW was kind enough to invite us to its home away from home: Spartanburg, South Carolina. The brand has a sprawling campus in the southern city. It was there, amidst thickets of trees and greenery, that we were led to our steed for the weekend, the BMW X7. This year is what BMW calls an "LCI" for the X7 - or Life Cycle Impulse if you don't speak corporate marketing jargon. It's a refresh, bringing some new hotness to the SUV version of the brand's flagship luxury 7 Series lineup.

The goal here, as BMW puts it, is to coddle seven passengers in luxury and tech the likes of which you won't find in a Mercedes or Audi. Bold claim.

Of course, what's a big six-figure luxury SUV without a little bit of physics-defying sportiness thrown in? The X7 has that too, with a new V8 engine for the M60i trim. Our brains stuffed with facts and figures (as well as breakfast) courtesy of BMW engineers, we set off through Spartanburg's hilly surroundings to find out what's what with the new X7.


Exterior: Controversially Classy

Both X7 flavors, the 40i xDrive and the M60i, drew a bit of controversy when the car debuted. People recoiled at the front end, much as they did when the M3 and M4 debuted. We're happy to report it's not as bad in person. The nose is large and a little garish, yes, but the photographer's lens can often make it appear larger than in person. BMW's split headlights also make it the SUV a little frowny, and the way the M version leans into the car's aesthetic more doesn't help.

That aside, the X7 is a handsome SUV. Its proportions are right, even with the car's massive (and optional) 23-inch wheels. We were told that this is also the first-ever BMW to be fitted with such large wheels. Thankfully, the SUV doesn't ride like it, but more on that in a bit.

Both the front and rear fascias are totally new for 2023. We think the changes work the best on the 40i trim, with the chrome there to help break up some of the face's mass. At the rear, new lights with a 3D effect are joined by a chrome bar, a favorite touch of ours. In all, we'll leave the looks at this: You've got to see the X7 in person to judge it.


Performance: Perfect In Any Flavor

Each of the X7's two trims comes with its own unique powertrain (although both are AWD). First, the 40i, inside which lives a classic BMW powertrain: A 3.0-liter twin-turbo mild-hybrid inline-six making 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. That's up from last year's model by 40 hp and 52 lb-ft. Quite honestly, this is a very potent powertrain. It's also a supremely quiet one that delivers its power smoothly all the way to redline.

BMW's powertrain engineer explained the motor's 48v hybrid setup to us with five-year-old-at-Christmas level energy. The unit's motor sits within the ZF-sourced eight-speed transmission's housing, nice and snug with the gears. From there, it can do anything a resourceful engineer would command of it. It'll act as a torque-filler down low, or as boost torque temporarily during hard acceleration to 398 lb-ft. You activate that by pulling the left shift paddle for a full second. That means the "base" model hits 60 in just 5.8 seconds. But most critically for a luxury car, the 48v system can smooth out the car's start-stop system. And it does, to the point that the action is almost imperceptible.


Of course, the one everyone wants to hear about will be the M60i's new V8. It's a 4.4-liter turbocharged affair with a 48-volt system of its own. 523 hp and 553 lb-ft send the M60i to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The motor sounds turbocharged, but the note really shines from inside. It's stately, with not a hint of turbo noise and a deep V8 thrum at cruising speeds. The sound on the outside isn't quit as vocal as the inside - BMW pipes noises in - but it sounds natural, and frankly we couldn't care. From behind the wheel, this is how all X7s should sound.

All that go on the M60i is great, but BMW told us it also took special care to push the go-faster car's chassis. First, optional rear-steer shrinks both cars around you, though its standard on the M-tuned model. Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview is also standard on the M60i and uses camera-based anticipation data to scan the road before you and tweak the ride. You don't notice it at work, which is truly impressive.

Finally, an adaptive dual-axle air suspension setup is found on both models, but the 60i also packs active roll stabilization, which helps to neutralize the car's 5,800-lb. frame in the twisties. It sounds like wizardry but it works. Shoot the M60i into a hairpin, crank the wheel, and wait for the car to wash out. Only it won't, and you'll be back to making V8 noises.


Driving Impressions: Autobahn Assassin

With that anecdote aside, now seems as good a time as any to get to the meat of this whole thing: the driving. Bimmer tossed us the keys to the M60i first, for a three-hour route through the heart of Southern Carolina. The green rolling hills were alive with the sound of tortured tires and V8 noises. The M60i truly does a solid impression of a sporty car. But not a sports car. BMW's engineers are brilliant, but they can't kill physics.

While the M60 is competent at pace, and stunningly so, its gobs of torque and clever chassis simply didn't deliver an M-worthy performance. Thankfully, launch control and ZF's rapid-fire gearbox helped to abate this feeling, and one stretch of South Carolina asphalt will bear the signs of our efforts for some time.

However, the X7 is also a luxury car, as we well know. Thankfully, the M60i is far better at being that than a sports car. Its numb steering is perfectly weighted, something you'd hate in a sports car but find to be a trivial gripe in a luxury SUV. The V8's whooshing intake sounds fade to a deep hum after an on-ramp is dispatched, with the car settling into what it does best: eating highway at (legal-ish) speed. This is an autobahn killer, regardless of which engine you choose.


Both cars sit whisper-quiet at any speed. All seven occupants can be heard clearly even at a whisper, and the SUV-level ride height means you can see for miles ahead of you. This lets you slice through traffic (thanks to that clever chassis, again) like you would in a car half this size. It's a truly nimble thing on the highway, and we felt bathed in luxury to boot.

Much as we love a good V8, the straight-six is the motor to have. It'll be cheaper, leaving room for luxury options like the killer Bowers & Wilkins sound system (a cool $5k). BMW's Driving Assistance Plus system helped to ease stop-go traffic, adding to that luxury feel. For now, the hands-off system, which steers for you as well as braking and accelerating for traffic, only works up to 40 mph. Later, it'll work at higher speeds, but only once BMW is ready to assume legal liability for what the car does while the system is on.

In short, BMW has touched up its flagship SUV, bringing more standard equipment to the X7 M60i and more luxury and tech options to the six-pot version. The X7 drives in a way that totally contrasts the looks - it's refined, quiet, and a fantastic place to kill a few hours at ridiculous speeds on the autobahn (or your nearest equivalent).


Interior: Leather, Luxury, And Class

Of course, the drive is only half the X7 experience. Sitting in the X7 is where things get interesting. The brand's comfort seats are now standard, and they're lovely. We do wish for bolster adjustment on the passenger seat, but that's quickly forgotten once you sink into the car's supple vegan "leather" seats. A pro will be able to tell the difference side-by-side, but we bet 99% of people couldn't. We had to be told our 40i was vegan.

There is, of course, tech aplenty. BMW's new iDrive 8 dominates the font passenger cell. However, the system has its kinks. There's just so damn much of it. Finding things can be challenging, especially when the system is laggy and bumping the iDrive controller the wrong way leads to catastrophe. However, when it isn't, it can go toe-to-toe with Mercedes and Audi's best. Couple that with voice control and Driving Assistance Plus, and you don't need to lift a finger to operate the X7 at certain points.

The rest of your passengers will feel similarly coddled. A panoramic sunroof lets in loads of light, and our six-foot-tall driving partner could fit comfortably in both the second and third rows.


BMW still needs to make the seat action for third-row access faster, though. We hate waiting around for the motors, and so will your kids. There's even a sunroof, climate controls, and USB ports for the third row.

The result is a staggeringly luxurious vehicle. BMW makes using this car easy as well. Switchgear controls the seats from the trunk deck, making loading as easy as it's going to get. All rear seats fold flat as well, resulting in a truly staggering amount of space (90.4 cubic feet). Studio apartments in Brooklyn cost more and give you less in return.

We were awed by the "feel" of the X7's interior. Massaging seats help to relax you, and the silence from both powerplants means you're never bothered by anything. The X7 takes the principle of destressing you as you drive and turns it up to 11. Not only are you de-stressed, you're happy when you get where you're going.

Bowers & Wilkins helps with that. The sound system is clean, with mids and lows staying punchy and present without drowning out the more subtle sounds of your preferred highway jam playlist. It might be a pricey option, but it's one you need to have to enjoy this car to its fullest.


Verdict: A 3-Row Luxury Masterclass

Right now, this is the most luxury flagship in the class, and the X7 feels it. Merc hasn't updated the GLS just yet (though one is in the works), and BMW has managed to get out in front in this regard.

For what you pay - the xDrive40i starts at $77,850 while the M60i starts at $103,100 - the X7 is class-leading. But here's the thing: To get all the spec you want, you have to load up, and as-tested, our M60i rang in at $119,945 with $5k spent on the Frozen Grey Metallic paintjob alone.

The M60i's V8 may be alluring, but honestly, the xDrive40i is the car to have. We love a V8, but that car's sporty dynamics aren't what we enjoy about the X7. For roughly $26K less at MSRP, you get a stunningly competent luxury car that delivers all the performance you need from something of this size.

That leaves you with $25K to spend on options. Spend every last red cent of those savings on luxury items, Driving Assistance Plus, and techy gimmicks like BMW's Park Assistant, which memorizes a pre-set route into your parking spot if you can't be bothered to park the massive SUV. If you do that, you'll be happy you not only saved $1,000 on a luxury SUV, but one that's surely the segment leader. At least until Merc has an answer for this car. Right now, it doesn't. And Range Rover? Well, it's in for quite a fight.


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